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Heat from the sun's rays can swell and damage capillaries, leaving skin ruddy for weeks. "It can even trigger the onset of rosacea, resulting in chronic sensitivity and a permanent flush," says Ronald Moy, MD, a UCLA clinical dermatology professor based in Beverly Hills.
Trade In: Exfoliating cleanser made of beads, seeds, salt, or sugar can exacerbate redness and contribute to unwanted stinging or itching, says Melissa Lazarus, MD, a dermatologist in Miami. "Rough textures can damage the skin's natural defense layer, allowing irritants such as dust and pollutants to sneak in," she adds.
Trade Up: Lather up with a gentle, nonsloughing cleanser that's creamy or low-foam. (Check the ingredients list. It shouldn't contain super-sudsers such as ethanolamide or lauryl glucoside, which can be drying.) Anti-inflammatories such as feverfew (found in Aveeno Ultra-Calming Moisturizing Cream Cleanser, $6.99, drugstores) can cut down on redness. For max benefits, leave it on for two minutes, like a mask.
Trade In: Anti-aging and anti-acne moisturizers, souped up with salicylic, alpha hydroxy, or glycolic acid, cause sensitive skin to burn and itch. The addition of fragrance (check ingredients labels) can have the same effect.
Trade Up: Fragrance-free lotion with sunscreen is a must to protect against further damage. Look for those with dimethicone, ceramides, or glycerin, which help rebuild the skin's protective barrier. A great all-in-one: Cetaphil UVA/UVB Defense SPF 50 ($13.99, drugstores).
Trade In: Antioxidants in creams fight skin-damaging free radicals created by UV rays. But some of the good-for-you ingredients are too powerful for delicate skin. One to watch out for: idebenone. "It's very effective but can cause irritation," says Naila Malik, MD, a dermatologist in Southlake, Texas.
Trade Up: Thiotaine, commonly found in mushrooms, plus green tea and bamboo, are effective antioxidants that also soothe irritation. (Try a moisturizer like Grassroots Research Labs Bamboo Leaf Ultra Soothing Anti-Redness Cream, $32.50, kohls.com.) Before applying, cleanse with a soft washcloth to gently remove dead skin cells, which can block absorption, Dr. Malik suggests.